Having been out of action since November with a knee injury, Beth Mead admits that being back around the squad had made her incredibly hungry to complete her rehabilitation by returning to action.
Our striker has been in and around her teammates all summer building up strength and fitness ready for her comeback, and writing in the official matchday programme before our WSL season opener against Liverpool, she gave an insight into her progress, as well as her mentality and motivations during nearly a year on the sidelines.
Here is what she had to say:
I’m literally like a kid at Christmas right now. It has been a long time coming for me to get back onto the pitch and hopefully that day isn’t too far away now.
It has been amazing just being back in the matchday squad. It finally feels like a bit of normality for me, warming up, being around the team, being in the changing room, putting the kit on and just being close to everyone again. It has been a big motivation for me on the mental side.
Coming back from a long-term injury is obviously a really difficult process. When you’ve had an injury like mine and been out for so long, you’ve got to hit certain markers for the sports scientists, and the physios have to tick off certain boxes that allow you to do certain things so they know you’re strong enough to move forward. Your leg strength has to be very similar on both sides for them to give you the green light, so there’s a lot of barriers you’ve got to overcome that a lot of people maybe don’t know about or wouldn’t expect.
I’ve done two weeks of solid contact training now, so I’m hopefully going to get more minutes on the training ground and fingers crossed my body reacts well and I’m feeling OK. When that happens I’ll be given the all-clear to play.
It has been a tough process and it’s not as simple as just going, “Oh, Beth’s back training and in the matchday squad, so she must be ready to play 90 minutes at her best.” It’s never as straightforward as that and there’s still lots of work to be done, but getting to that point is the hardest part, I guess. I just need to keep focused and make sure I’m smart in the way I push my body in the coming weeks.
"I’ve got good people around me who are looking out for my health both physically and mentally"
I’m starting to be able to really take the reins off a bit more now, which is really nice. I just want to get going. I’m starting to feel good now, I’m starting to feel sharper and ultimately I just need match minutes, but so far, so good. I’m feeling great right now, but I’ll have to let you all know how I’m feeling after my first game back!
I’ve loved every minute of being around the squad but, if I’m being completely honest, there’s this little voice inside my head that’s screaming for me to get back on the pitch. I think it’s normal as a player to want to be back out there and fighting for my position again as soon as possible. Hopefully I can soon take that first step towards getting back to match fitness and match sharpness. I’m excited to start challenging and competing in the team again, but I know I just need to remain patient because my time will come and I’ve got good people around me who are looking out for my health both physically and mentally.
There’s no better occasion than Emirates Stadium when we’ve sold so many tickets. We’re at 48,000 as I write this, which is just incredible. As players we want to be playing in big stadiums regularly, so we need to get people in through the door and on the seats. To already be hitting numbers like this again after getting our first sell-out last season and setting a WSL record, it’s outstanding.
We want to play for the fans and we want to play in an exciting atmosphere and you’re making that happen more and more every season. I think it can become a real superpower for us as a club, both on and off the pitch: the energy it gives us in games, the fear that it puts in our opponents and the financial benefits for the club too. I genuinely think players want to come here because it’s such an exciting prospect to regularly play in front of big crowds like this.
"We’ve got world-class players in every position now"
We’ve added five players to our squad over the summer and I think everyone has integrated amazingly well so far. That’s the thing about this squad – we welcome people with open arms and people very quickly feel like they’ve been here for years.
The girls have already fed back that they are really comfortable in this environment and that’s something we’re really good at as a team, making a really positive but competitive environment where we’re all pushing each other on and fighting for every position. We’ve got world-class players in every position now, so it’s only making us better as people and footballers. One thing we really pride ourselves on is making people feel like it’s a home away from home here.
Just finally, I’d like to say a few words in memory of Maddy Cusack. I had the pleasure of playing with Maddy at youth level. She was actually my roommate once or twice and she was just an amazing girl. She was one of the very first people who reached out to me after the Euros when I’d done well and since then we’d kept in touch again.
Maddy just always had this amazing energy and wanted everyone to do well – she was an incredible team player and team-mate. I know when I was younger I wasn’t comfortable being away from home, and she was always great with making me feel at home and was always really kind to me.
I was devastated to hear the news about her passing. Knowing her personally and knowing how much she loves football and how much more she had to give, life can be very unfair sometimes and I just want to send out big love to her team-mates, family, friends and everyone at Sheffield United at this really difficult time. The world has lost a truly amazing person. Rest in peace, Maddy.
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